Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 29, 2016

Sanders Must Offer Tulsi Gabbard The VP Slot. Now!

Tulsi Gabbard, a U.S. Congress representative from Hawaii, stepped down as a vice chair of the Democrat National Committee to endorse Bernie Sanders. In the video below the fold she explains her reasoning. It is Clinton's militarism in foreign policies that makes her take the other side.

Described as "libertarian-leaning progressive" the woman is smart, pretty and speaks well. She is also a former officer in the U.S. military with combat experience and an interest in foreign policy.

Politically her endorsement is manna from heaven for Sanders.

Sanders should IMMEDIATELY offer her the Vice-President slot. Her task in the campaign is to stand in on all foreign policy issues. Sanders then can continue to focus on inequality in the United States.

Hillary Clinton would have no chance to beat that team. Unlike the neoconned Clinton, a Sanders/Gabbard ticket can attract young voters which will be needed to beat Trump. If Clinton runs against Trump the large and growing "anything but Clinton" crowd would likely let her loose.

Someone tell Sanders that he better act fast to announce her nomination before Clinton collects more states and takes away the buzz that the Sanders campaign urgently needs.

 

 

Posted by b on February 29, 2016 at 02:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (105)

#BREAKING News As Propaganda

For your daily media competence training:

The hint that the above AFP #BREAKING tweet was nonsense is the use of the word may. Like in "#BREAKING Sky may have fallen". There is also the rhetoric redundancy in "have starved to death".

But notice the 217 retweets which likely will have caused many secondary retweets and many, many more viewer impressions.

Three hours later ...

The #CORRECTION is of course not #BREAKING. People searching Twitter with the hash-tag #BREAKING to take a quick look at recent news will of course never see any relevant #CORRECTION. You can simply make up whatever nonsense you like to distribute into a #BREAKING news stream, preferable with one of the agencies or other prominent accounts. You will then get a huge distribution. Later you issue a #CORRECTION which exculpates you from the error but will not be read by anyone.

But in this case of the "UN rights chief" claiming something may have happened it was surely really just a clerical error or a misunderstanding. Right?

Posted by b on February 29, 2016 at 12:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (23)

February 28, 2016

On The NYT's Sorry Whitewash Of Clinton And Her War On Libya

The New York Times has a two part piece about the U.S. war on Libya and especially Hillary Clinton's role as the then Secretary of State in it. Adhering to the NYT's editorial line, the overall picture of Clinton is painted in sympathetic colors even when it describes the disaster she created.

Overall it is a whitewash of history based on the lies that the "humanitarian intervention" was perceived necessary because Ghaddafi was about to "kill civilians". It is not unexpected that the NYT would write such nonsense. The NYT editors had themselves endorsed the war and the paper lauded the immediate result. It is guilty of inciting the war just as much as Clinton is.

But the story of the "humanitarian intervention" for the Libyan people in March 2011 is hogwash.


Libya, Spring 2011

The attack on Libya was well prepared. Radical Islamist under Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who had once been held in a secret CIA prison, were violently attacking the Libyan state with financial and military support from Qatar. Ghaddafi acted in response to them and in a proportional manner. There never was any danger of a "massacre in Benghazi" (at least when Ghaddafi was still alive). That he reacted at all was used as pretense to launch a war that had been conceptualized earlier.

French intelligence was on the ground in Libya and coordinating the "protesters" in Benghazi in February 2011. The UK and France had prepared themselves for attacking Libya under the disguise of a military air maneuver called Southern Mistral. It was planned to start in late March 2011 but when everything was in place the maneuver was "suspended" and converted into the actual attack on Libya. This was straight out of deception 101. The maneuver scenario:

SOUTHLAND : Dictatorship responsible for an attack against France's national interests.
FRANCE : Makes the decision to show its determination to SOUTHLAND (under United Nations Security council resolution n°3003).
UNITED-KINGDOM : Allied country as determined in the bilateral agreement. The United Kingdom supports France through the deployment of its air assets.

All points lead to the conclusion that the attack on Libya had been planned long before the first protests in Libya began.

The NYT write up also misses out on the intent of the war and Clinton's push for it:

The consequences would be more far-reaching than anyone imagined, leaving Libya a failed state and a terrorist haven, a place where the direst answers to Mrs. Clinton’s questions have come to pass.

The "than anyone imagined" line is funny because just a few paragraph later the piece itself claims that there were people in the government who indeed foresaw the consequences:

Some senior intelligence officials had deep misgivings about what would happen if Colonel Qaddafi lost control. In recent years, the Libyan dictator had begun aiding the United States in its fight against Al Qaeda in North Africa.

“He was a thug in a dangerous neighborhood,” said Michael T. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general who headed the Defense Intelligence Agency at the time. “But he was keeping order.”

Just like the U.S. military intelligence the Canadian military knew exactly what would happen after an overthrow of Ghaddafi.


Al Qaeda's flag flying above the courthouse of Benghazi, Fall 2011

Some lonely blogger warned before the "intervention" of a coming disaster in a still deeply tribal country:

The misrepresentation of this conflict in the media may well lead to military intervention by "western" forces. These would then have to fight those tribes which for whatever reason support Ghaddafi. With "western" intervention the situation on the ground would quickly deteriorate. This would cost a lot more lives than any situation in which the Libyan people fight this out by and for themselves.

Libya is now, as predicted, a failed destroyed state. Leaving failed destroyed states behind has been the consequences of ALL U.S. wars in the last 20 years. The wars on Yugoslavia left several of those. Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq and Libya all ended up destroyed. Are we to believe that its the same bug that infests every U.S. intervention? Or is it not rather more plausible that the outcome of destroyed states is the intended feature of U.S. bellicose interventions?

The war on Libya was not a "failed intervention". It was a war with the aim of creating a failed state on the geography of Libya. In the larger strategic contest Libya was the nut the U.S. needed to crack to get entrance in Africa. Ghaddafi was the most prominent person urging for African unity and preparing for a common market and a common currency. Now Africa is more divided, left without the significant Libyan economic backing and can be further chopped up piecewise.

The special forces the U.S., Uk and France now put again onto Libyan ground to fight the Islamic State" will only increase the chaos by attracting another backlash:

The Libyan officials said the presence of Western forces was not welcomed by ultraconservative Salafist factions, who are allied with Libya’s eastern army and perceive the foreign intervention as an “occupation.”

Clinton's role in inciting the war was very aggressive. She has learned nothing from the mess she created. It is no wonder that she is the darling of the neoconservatives as well as the liberal interventionists. There is no bombing she would not endorse. The way she proclaims her line “We came, we saw, he died!" (vid) ending in laughter, points to a deeply psychopathic background. Letting her be the, likely unelectable, presidential candidate would be a disaster for the Democratic Party.

Posted by b on February 28, 2016 at 12:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (104)

February 27, 2016

Is The U.S. Preparing A "Color Revolution" In Russia?

Via the former Indian ambassador M K Bhadrakumar we learn that the Russian government is preparing for a "color revolution" attempt during the parliament elections in September:

The annual meeting of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), which is the successor organization to the Soviet-era KGB is an important occasion to take the temperature in the ‘East-West’ relations. (The Cold War cliche is becoming useful once again.) President Vladimir Putin’s customary address at the FSB meeting was the hallmark of the occasion on Friday in Moscow.
The sensational part of Putin’s speech is his disclosure that the FSB is in possession of definite information that plots are being hatched in the West to stir up political turmoil in Russia as the country heads for crucial parliamentary election in October. Putin avoided the use of the expression ‘color revolution’ but hinted at it.

The various U.S. services and the neocons in the State Department would certainly like to invite some revolt in Russia. But the chances for a successful putsch in Moscow are tiny. There is no competent opposition to the current government and a bit of economic trouble is not what incites Russians to take on the state. They would have hanged Yeltsin every other day if it were so.

It would be much easier if Washington would accept Russia as it is and make some room form it in global polices. But that never can be, right?

Altogether, a grim scenario has been projected here with regard to Russian-American relations through the remaining period of the presidency of Barack Obama. The core issue for Russia all along is that the US interferes in its internal politics with a view to create political disharmony and weaken the Kremlin, forcing it to adopt policies that are in harmony with American regional and global strategies.
...
The US cannot countenance Russia (or any country for that matter) in such nationalistic mode, presenting formidable headwind against its global strategies.

Trump or Sanders winning the U.S. presidency could result in more friendly relations with Moscow. But there are many in the various bureaucracies, especially in the Pentagon, who have their budget depending on a hostile relation with Russia (and China). Their voices will be hard to silent. This makes it more difficult to solve the ongoing crises in Syria and Ukraine:

Putin has forewarned that Moscow will defeat any US design to instigate political turmoil in Russia, no matter what it takes. Trust Putin here. However, the big question remains: How could regional conflicts such as Syria or Ukraine be possibly addressed when the two big powers are locked in an existential struggle?

Should the U.S. really attempt to create some kind of trouble around elections in Moscow we can expect an intensification of the conflicts in both theaters, Ukraine and Syria, during the summer. If only to intensify the "Putin is Evil" message the "western" media were told to spread in their populations.

Posted by b on February 27, 2016 at 10:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (103)

February 25, 2016

Open Thread 2016-09

News & views ...

Posted by b on February 25, 2016 at 01:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (204)

February 24, 2016

Syria: A First Major Win Due To The Cessation of Hostilities Agreement

The Russian/Syrian agreement to the cessation of hostilities in Syria is seen critical from a military point of view. It would have been better to use the current momentum and to proceed fighting instead of giving respite to the enemy.

But the agreement has one huge advantage. It excludes the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra. Every "western" media report on the agreement and its likelihood to proceed now has to admit what has long been denied. That the unicorn U.S. supported "moderate rebels" are in deep alliance with al-Qaeda.

Even the grey lady now concedes:

many of the anti-Assad groups aligned with the United States fight alongside the Nusra Front

The readers of such piece note that the U.S. is actually supporting the terrorists it claimed to be fighting for the last 13 years. Somehow that does not compute. This will put pressure the Obama administration. It can hardly blame Russia and Syria for continuing a campaign against Al-Qaeda even during a cessation of hostility with U.S. supported "moderates". The U.S. lauds itself over killing alleged Al-Qaeda followers in drone strikes all over the world. How can it blame Russia for doing like in Syria?

But not only "western" media are now exposed. The new situation compels the actors behind Nusra/al-Qaeda to reveal their positions:

"The PYD is supported because it fights against ISIL. Nusra Front is also fighting against ISIL. Why is it bad?" [the Turkish President Erdogan] asked.

"AIDS also kills ISIL? Why is it bad?"

Just in time the BBC is reporting what everybody watching the war on Yemen already knew. Al-Qaeda is fighting together Saudi and other Gulf troops in their assault on the city of Taiz.

Since 9/11 the "western" public has been conditioned to see Al-Qaeda as the evil enemy. I do not think that it is possible to eradicate that within a few weeks or month.

With the push for the cessation of hostilities the Russian/Syrian side has won a major point in the public relation position. It is becoming clear to even average "western" reader that they are fighting real terrorists while the U.S. and its allies support at least associates to terrorists, if not the terrorists themselves.

 

(Sorry for light posting. I am busy.)

Posted by b on February 24, 2016 at 02:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (80)

February 22, 2016

Syria: Does This "Cessation Of Hostilities" Allow Attacks On Jaish al-Fatah?

This was just published:

Joint Statement of the United States and the Russian Federation, as Co-Chairs of the ISSG, on Cessation of Hostilities in Syria

...
Consistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and the statements of the ISSG, the cessation of hostilities does not apply to “Daesh”, “Jabhat al-Nusra”, or other terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council.

There is a word missing in the above when compared to the relevant part of UNSC Res 2254:

... specifically by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh), Al-Nusra Front (ANF), and all other individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities associated with Al Qaeda or ISIL, and other terrorist groups, ...

The "associated" with Al Qaeda are not mentioned in the cessation document. In Idleb and other parts on north Syria Jaish al Fatah is the major terrorist alliance:

The Army of Conquest ("Arabic: جيش الفتح‎) or Jaish al-Fatah, abbreviated JaF, is a joint operations room of Islamist Syrian rebel factions participating in the Syrian Civil War.
...
At its founding, Jaish al-Fatah contained seven members, three of them — al-Nusra, Ahrar ash-Sham, and Jund al-Aqsa are directly connected to Al-Qaeda or have a similar ideology. With Ahrar ash-Sham being the largest group, al-Nusra and Ahrar ash-Sham together were reported to represent 90 percent of the troops. Another prominent Islamist faction in the operations room included the Muslim Brotherhood of Syria linked Sham Legion (Faylaq Al-Sham). Jaish al-Fatah collaborated with more moderate Free Syrian Army factions such as Knights of Justice Brigade.

Leaving out the "associated" in the cessation of hostilities declaration gives room for Ahrar al-Sham and a few others, which are clearly "associated" with al-Nusra/al-Qaeda in their Jaish al-Fatah alliance, to take part in it.

There are conditions to that. From the "Terms For Cessation Of Hostilities In Syria attached to the Joint Statement linked above:

The nationwide cessation of hostilities is to apply to any party currently engaged in military or paramilitary hostilities against any other parties other than “Daesh”, “Jabhat al-Nusra”, or other terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council.
...
To take part in the cessation of hostilities, armed opposition groups will confirm – to the United States of America or the Russian Federation, who will attest such confirmations to one another as co-chairs of the ISSG by no later than 12:00 (Damascus time) on February 26 2016 – their commitment to and acceptance of the following terms:
  • To full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, adopted unanimously on December 18, 2015, ‑ including the readiness to participate in the UN-facilitated political negotiation process;
  • To cease attacks with any weapons, including rockets, mortars, and anti-tank guided missiles, against Armed Forces of the Syrian Arab Republic, and any associated forces;
  • To refrain from acquiring or seeking to acquire territory from other parties to the ceasefire;
  • To allow humanitarian agencies, rapid, safe, unhindered and sustained access throughout areas under their operational control and allow immediate humanitarian assistance to reach all people in need;
  • To proportionate use of force (i.e., no greater than required to address an immediate threat) if and when responding in self-defense.

The same condition plus a cessation of aerial bombing apply to the Syrian government side.

It is "proposed"(?) that the cessation of hostilities commence at 00:00 (Damascus time) on February 27, 2016.

The immediate estimates of various observers of the war on Syria on how long a cessation of hostilities under these conditions would hold varied between 30 seconds and 4 weeks.

The big problem is of course that al-Qaeda is so intermingled with the "moderate rebels" that the U.S. even tried, contrary to UNSC Res 2254, to get the cessation of hostilities applied to it.

Let us assume that Ahrar al-Sham agrees to the cessation of hostilities and follows its terms. The Syrian and Russian intelligence suddenly get good information about the location of the joint operations room of al-Nusra, Ahrar ash-Sham and Jund al-Aqsa. 

Now would that joint operations room or headquarter be a legitimate bombing target under the cessation of hostilities agreement? In my view bombing it would obviously be allowed because al-Nusra/al-Qaeda is there. But the "moderate" terrorists, the U.S. and their other sponsors would scream bloody murder about such bombing.

That is why I believe that this cessation of hostilities, should it come in force at all, will hold no longer than one week.

Posted by b on February 22, 2016 at 02:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (132)

February 21, 2016

What Is The Purpose Of The "Most Effective Application Of Firepower"?

I think it fair to say that the targeted killing program has been the most precise and effective application of firepower in the history of armed conflict.

To Keep America Safe, Embrace Drone Warfare
Feb 19, 2016 - NYT Op Ed by Michael V Hayden, director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2006 to 2009.

Despite nearly 15 years of U.S. counterterrorism operations after the Sept. 11 attacks, Clapper said, “there are now more Sunni violent extremist groups, members and safe havens than at any time in history.”

At one point, Clapper described his grim presentation, only half jokingly, as a “litany of doom.”

Feb 9, 2016 WaPo report on Senate Intelligence Committee Hearing of the Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr.

If the result Clapper reports reflects the "most effective application of firepower", what is that application's purpose?

Posted by b on February 21, 2016 at 11:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (95)

February 20, 2016

U.S. Ignores Own UNSC Resolution - Tells Russia "Stop Bombing Al-Qaeda!"

UN Security Council Resolution 2254 calls for a "ceasefire" in Syria. A "ceasefire", unconditioned according to the resolution, would be for the whole country but would exclude certain groups:

[r]eiterates its call in resolution 2249 (2015) for Member States to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh), Al-Nusra Front (ANF), and all other individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities associated with Al Qaeda or ISIL, and other terrorist groups, [...] and to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Syria, and notes that the aforementioned ceasefire will not apply to offensive or defensive actions against these individuals, groups, undertakings and entities, as set forth in the 14 November 2015 ISSG Statement;

The resolution also underlines Syria's sovereignty. The UNSC is:

Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic, and to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, ...

The whole UNSC, including the U.S., France and Britain, agreed to this resolution.

But the U.S., France and the UK now want to erase these significant parts of the resolution.

  • They no longer want a ceasefire but only a "cessation of hostilities".
  • They demand that under such a "cessation" all bombing of al-Nusra/al-Qaeda and its associated entities should stop.
  • They now want to ignore Syria's just reaffirmed sovereignty.

The Saudis and its puppies in the Syrian opposition disagreed with the UNSC resolution. U.S. Secretary of State Kerry promptly blamed them for preventing a ceasefire but was then pulled back. In last weeks negotiations in Geneva Kerry took the Saudi position and thereby sabotaged any real ceasefire talk which would include much more than just a stop of firing. Kerry agreed only to a lower level "cessation of hostilities". As the former Indian ambassador to Turkey M K Bhadrakumar remarks:

Whereas a ceasefire brings in legal obligations, which would commit the US to sit across the table and meet the Russian – and, more importantly, Syrian – military counterparts and draw up detailed modalities of implementation, UN Security Council supervision and so on, the ‘cessation of hostilities’ can be punctuated at will without breaking international law.

Meanwhile, US and its allies are keen to gain access to all nooks and corners of Syrian territory, which will eventually help to mobilize any military operations under Plan B, especially ground operations. The humanitarian missions provide the cover for reconnaissance and ground work.

The West has let loose a massive propaganda barrage against the Russian operations. Equally, the refugee crisis moulds the western opinion. The NATO is inching towards the conflict zone.
...
At any rate, a humanitarian intervention in Syria may be just what President Barrack Obama needs to salvage his reputation.

Bhadrakumar quotes Lavrov who was livid over this foul play which ignored the agreed upon UNSC Resolution.

U.S. rhetoric and propaganda over alleged Russian human rights violations in the war has since increased.

Despite Russia's concern over the low level of a "cessation of hostilities", it insisted on common meetings at the working level to lay out the rules for the "cessation". The first meeting only took place yesterday, the day the "cessation" was originally supposed to begin.

It was the U.S., especially the Pentagon, that had dragged out the start of the talks. At the meeting the U.S. inserted a new condition, copied from the Saudis string puppet opposition, into the talks.

The U.S. now demands, contrary to the UNSC resolution, that the terrorist group al-Qaeda in Syria should no longer be fought.

The Washington Post reports of yesterday's meeting:

The deadline for a cease-fire in Syria’s civil war came and went Friday, as joint diplomatic and military teams from the United States and Russia tried to agree on rules covering where the shooting would stop and where it would be allowed to continue.
...
“Everyone recognizes the complexity of this endeavor, and there is certainly a lot more work to do,” Kerry said in a statement. “These discussions have been serious and so far constructive, with a few tough issues still to resolve.”

Translation of Kerry's diplomatese: "Let's drag this out as looooong as possible."

Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter was said to have opposed the high-level contact with the Russians, at least initially. But Kerry and others in the administration argued that the subject matter demanded military expertise.
...
Under the terms of the Munich deal, the United States and Russia are co-chairs of a task force to work out the terms of a cease-fire, including where airstrikes against “terrorist” groups are permitted to continue and how to resolve violations.
...
One of the many problems to be overcome is a differing definition of what constitutes a terrorist group. In addition to the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, Russia and Syria have labeled the entire opposition as terrorists.

Jabhat al-Nusra, whose forces are intermingled with moderate rebel groups in the northwest near the Turkish border, is particularly problematic. Russia was said to have rejected a U.S. proposal to leave Jabhat al-Nusra off-limits to bombing as part of a cease-fire, at least temporarily, until the groups can be sorted out.

Read that again. The U.S. supports opposition that "intermingles" with al-Qaeda? Are these not "entities associated with Al Qaeda" which the UNSC 2254 explicitly excludes from any ceasefire? And the U.S., which over the years killed thousands of civilians while droning alleged al-Qaeda personal, now demands that all bombing of al-Qaeda in Syria stops?

The breathtaking new U.S. condition to let al-Qaeda continue its slaughtering without interference is directly based on demands by the Saudis submitted through the Saudi controlled opposition.

That opposition today presented "new conditions" under which it would agree to the ceasefire. Hala Jaber, Sunday Times journalist in the Middle East, noted:

Hala Jaber Verified account @HalaJaber
#HNC leader #RiadHijab reached consent with rebel groups 4 "temporary ceasefires",but only if certain conditions met

2/ New statement being made to sound as a break through when, in effect, it's the same stance as pre #Geneva talks.

3/ Conditions entail:
1-Ceasefire 2 kickstart simultaneously by all sides
2-End of all siege
3-Provision of aid
4-Release of all prisoners.

Reuters later added:

A source close to peace talks earlier on Saturday told Reuters Syria's opposition had agreed to a two- to three-week truce.

The truce would be renewable and supported by all parties except Islamic State, the source said. It would also be conditional on the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front no longer being targeted, at least to start with, the source said.

The Nusra Front is considered a terrorist organization by the U.N. Security Council and banned.

Asked if the opposition's insistence on the Nusra Front no longer being targeted was the main stumbling block, he described it as "the elephant in the room".

These are of course unacceptable pre-conditions which are not in line with UNSC 2254 which calls for a political process "in parallel" to a full ceasefire, not as precondition for a "temporary" "cessation".

The foreign sponsored terrorists in Syria are on the run and need a pause to resupply and reorganize. At the time they and their sponsors introduce demands that make any truce or "cessation of hostilities" impossible.

That the U.S. demand to stop bombing al-Qaeda is also hypocrisy squared. It yesterday bombed, without any base in international law, some houses in Libya and killed some 50 people including two Serbian diplomats. It alleges that some of these people belong to the Islamic State, formerly named al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Russia yesterday introduced a new resolution at the UNSC as a counteract to Turkish artillery fire which is hitting the Syrian Kurdish groups YPG which is also supported by the U.S.:

The Russian draft, seen by Reuters, would have the council express "its grave alarm at the reports of military buildup and preparatory activities aimed at launching foreign ground intervention into the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic."

It also demands that states "refrain from provocative rhetoric and inflammatory statements inciting further violence and interference into internal affairs of the Syrian Arab Republic."

The Russian one page paper only restated basic sovereignty principle of the United Nations Charter which were also reconfirmed in UNSC 2254. But now the U.S., France and UK rejected those statements and no new resolution was adopted.

The U.S. is now ignoring or even contradicting the UNSC 2254 resolution it had endorsed just a weeks ago.

  • It no longer wants a ceasefire in Syria.
  • It wants al-Qaeda off the terrorist list on which it was put on demand of the U.S.
  • It wants to ignore Syria's sovereignty.

This is a quite amazing turn away from the earlier positions. But do not expect any U.S. mainstream media to point that out. That would require some real reporting about the impetus for these moves and the intent behind them.

Posted by b on February 20, 2016 at 10:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (136)

February 19, 2016

"Are Green Berets Leading The YPG In North-West Syria?" - "Wrong Question ..."

A few days ago we asked the speculative question: Are Green Berets Leading The YPG In Taking The Azaz Pocket? That question was, as we will see, wrong. It is not the YPG that is the relevant part here but some other groups fighting next to it. We wrote:

The Kurds in the Azaz pocket have also some support from a professional military. Their moves are very purposeful and controlled. They are clearly coordinated with the Syrian army. The coordination with the Russian airforce works well and there is ground fire coordination with the SAA.
...
Who are the professionals that are helping the YPG to take the Azaz pocket?

My first thought was of course Russian Spetsnaz. But I asked around and none of my usual sources would confirm this. The sources acknowledged that the YPG in west Syria has special force support but there was some quite unexpected silence over who these forces were. It is clear to me that these are not Syrian special forces. The YPG does not want to be seen as an adjunct to the Syrian government. No one would confirm to me that these are Russian forces even as that would be of no great surprise to anyone. This leads me to speculate that some U.S. special forces are directing the YPG in the Azaz pocket. This in coordination with the Syrian army and the Russians.

The idea presumed a split between the CIA, which arms the jihadis with TOWs and other toys, and the U.S. military, which helps the Kurds against the Islamic State jihadis in north-east Syria.


big

At Sic Semper Tyrannis Pat Lang and The Twisted Genius, both experienced and higher level former spec ops, found that unlikely.

But there are now additional data points which support my crazy idea. The "Kurds" besieging the Azaz pocket from the west and the south are not all Kurds. They have local allies with whom they are organized under the label Syrian Democratic Forces. Indeed, according to this report, the Kurds have pulled back from the southern Azaz line and leave it to an allied group. Some of the pro-Syrian troops now there are intimate friends of the U.S. military:

On Feb. 10, the YPG and Jaish al-Thuwar (Army of Revolutionaries), two allied SDF units, seized the Menagh air base south of Azaz and then the nearby villages of Maranaz, Malikiye, Der Jammal and Tell Acar.
...
The Syrian rebel group Jaish al-Uswar entered Tell Rifaat on Feb. 15. The next day, Ahmed al-Omar, the group's spokesman, said it had cleared Tell Rifat after four days of battles. Tell Rifaat was a key point for logistics operations between Aleppo and Turkey.

After Tell Rifaat, SDF units captured the villages of Ain Dejne, Kfar Naya and toward Azaz and then entered Marea.

My question was wrong. It was about Green Berets accompanying the YPG. But I should have asked about Green Berets accompanying whoever was moving there, the YPG and/or other groups, and fighting on the pro-Syrian side.

Who makes up Jaish al-Thuwar? Established in May 2015, some of its fighters were in the US-supported, but then disbanded, Hazm Movement and the Syrian Revolutionaries Front. Cephed al-Akrad (the Kurdish Front) — made up of Kurds who had not joined the YPG — is another unit of Jaish al-Thuwar. The Seljuks Brigade and Sultan Selim Brigade of Turkmens, which operate separately from the Turkish-supported Turkmen forces, are also part of Jaish al-Thuwar. An alliance of Arabs, Turkmens and Kurds, Jaish al-Thuwar joined the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces in October 2015. Most of the fighters hail from settlements on the Azaz-Marea line and areas of Menbic, al-Bab and Jarablus currently controlled by IS. It isn't accurate to call Jaish al-Thuwar fighters outsiders.

After capturing areas near Azaz, the YPG left them to the control of Jaish al-Thuwar and withdrew to Afrin. Some observers in the Turkish government circles interpreted the move as the YPG using Jaish al-Thuwar as a cover. This may be a bit of an overstatement, as the Americans function as a coordinator between these two SDF units.

There is an amalgamation of various small groups, some trained by the U.S. military, which is holding the southern border of the Azaz pocket including the Menagh air base and Tell Rifaat. This group coordinates with the YPG Kurds through U.S. intermediaries.

Who then are these intermediaries and who is really leading or "advising" the quite diverse Jaish al-Thuwar?

Adding another data point that supports my hunch the Pentagon yesterday admitted that the special forces it put down in Syria to coordinate the Kurds fighting the Islamic State are in contact with the Russian forces in Syria:

The Pentagon has asked Russia to stay away from parts of northern Syria where US special operations troops are training local fighters to combat the Islamic State group, military officials said Thursday.

The acknowledgement is significant because the Pentagon has repeatedly stressed it is not cooperating with Moscow as the two powers lead separate air campaigns in war-ravaged Syria.

Lieutenant General Charles Brown, who commands the US air forces in the Middle East, said US officials had asked Moscow to avoid "broad areas" in northern Syria "to maintain a level of safety for our forces that are on the ground."
...
Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said Russia had honored the request, and stressed the Pentagon only provided broad geographic descriptions of where the US troops are, not their precise location.

There was "one instance in which we have asked, for the safety of our special operators, (the Russians) to not engage in that particular geographical area," Cook said. "We think it's a reasonable request."

The Pentagon last year said it was sending about 50 special operations forces to work with anti-IS fighters in Syria, though officials have said next to nothing about their whereabouts and progress since.

Notice that the AFP report above emphasizes "northern Syria". Not "north-east Syria" or "east-Syria" where the YPG, with acknowledged U.S. air and special force support, is successfully cleaning the Hasakah governate of Islamic State trash. The AP report does likewise.

The insertion of 50 U.S. special operation forces into Syria was announced at the end of October 2015, around the same time the Jaish al-Thuwar joined the YPG to form the SDF named alliance. Jaish al-Thuwar includes people who have been through the Pentagon's training program.

After the Syrian army closed the Azaz pocket the YPG and its allies made fast, elegant and well coordinated moves to take the southern line of the Azaz pocket and to push north from it. A rag-tag force of amateurs would not have been able to operate like that. It is the way that this happened that led me to believe that there were some extraordinary well trained folks involved in it. These folks were coordinating the SDF force itself as well as with the Russians and the Syrian army.

So let me rephrase my earlier question about the Green Berets leading the "YPG":

Are Green Berets leading the SDF and more so Jaish al-Thuwar in taking the Azaz pocket?

If the answer is "Yes" additional questions follow from the above one:

  • Does this demonstrate a split between CIA and the Pentagon with each supporting opposing sides?
  • Is this the real reason for Erdogan's rage over the U.S. affair with the "YPG"?
  • Was this coordinated between Secretary of State Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov?
  • What does this mean for the future of Syria?

Posted by b on February 19, 2016 at 02:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (131)

February 18, 2016

Ankara Bombing Fails To Achive Strategic Changes

The bombing in Ankara yesterday killed 27 mostly military people. It was a big car bomb and a suicide attack.The Turkish government claims that the person who did this was one Saleh Nejar and also claims that he is connected to the Syrian Kurdish group YPG.

There is no way to verify this. But the YPG has so fare never used any car bombs or done any suicide attacks. It never touched any target in Turkey. It officially denied to have taken any part in it.

The Turkish group PKK has done vehicle bomb attacks and a few suicide attacks but not in Ankara or any other major west-Turkish city. Its attacks are usually operational, not strategic like this one.

In the last Turkish version of its magazine the Islamic State had called for attacks in Turkey and on Turkish soldiers. It is the entity that has most to win through such an attack that would predictably be blamed on the Kurds. It is the most plausible culprit.

The attack could also have been arranged by the Turkish secret service MIT. But the number and type of casualties seems to be too high and valuable for a stage-managed false flag attack.

The Turkish government first claimed that that the PKK was responsible for the attack and send fighter jets into the Qandil mountains in Iraq to bomb some PKK positions. The Turkish Prime Minister then blamed the Syrian YPK and then the Syrian President Assad. Next will be Russia, the Jews and the Illuminati.

The Turkish government called in the ambassadors of the permanent members of the UN Security Council to present its evidence. A "western diplomat" told the Wall Street Journal that the evidence shown was "not conclusive". That is the diplomatese expression for "bullshit". The Turkish attempt to use the attack to change the U.S. and EU relations to the YPK failed. The YPK and its associated Arab and Turkmen forces is a very valuable asset for the U.S. to fight the Islamic State. It will refrain from condemning it as long as that is the case.

The YPG groups in west Syria are fighting together with others under the label Syrian Democratic Forces. These and the mysterious additional attendants are pressing Jihadi forces in the Azaz pocket at the Turkish border. They are now seeing more resistance. The Turks use artillery to protect the Jihadis in Azaz and the number of enemies has grown. One "rebel" tells Reuters that 2,000 "rebels" with some tanks came from Idleb through Turkey to Azaz. That number is dubious. The British MI6 outlet SOHR as well as a Turkish pro government daily put the numbers at 350 on Monday and another 500 on Wednesday. To transport the tanks through Turkey would likely have been too much a hassle. I doubt that any reached Azaz.

I suspect that many of these "rebels" in Azaz are actually Turks of some radical nationalist and Islamist faction as well as Grey Wolf fascists which have strong connections to the MIT. Pictures show such "rebels" in Latakia with Turkish and Islamic State flags and in Azaz with their typical Grey Wolf hand sign.

The more "rebels" join the fight in the pocket the less will be in Idleb and elsewhere. The Syrian army and its allies will be happy when lots of the "rebels" join the Azaz pocket and are kept there by the YPG. There is no urge yet to eliminate them.

The Syrian army today liberated Kinsaaba in Latakia near the Turkish border. It was the last bigger holdout of "rebels" in the governate. The Syrian troops in north Latakia can now mop up what is left of the "rebels" and then move to the eastern ridge of the Latakia mountains. From there they can look down onto Idleb province and the city of Jisr al Shughour. When the big battle for Idleb province begins during the next months that city will be their first target.

Yesterdays attack in Ankara has moved less than expected. While the Turks would like to enter Syria and fight the Syrian government troops as well as the YPG they are to afraid of the Russian forces to go alone. NATO and the U.S. are for now unwilling to give them any cover.

Posted by b on February 18, 2016 at 02:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (84)

February 17, 2016

Today's Attack In Ankara Could Be A False Flag Incident

In March 2014 tape recordings of a meeting between the Turkish then Foreign Minister Davutoglu, the chief of the Turkish intelligence MIT Hakan Fidan and others leaked to the public. They talked about a false flag attack on Turkey to be used as a justification form a Turkish attack on Syria. The new was mostly ignored by the "western" main stream media. As I wrote about the tape:

The major points from my view:
  • Turkey has delivered 2,000 trucks of weapons and ammunition to the insurgents in Syria.
  • There are plans for false flag attacks on Turkey or Turkish property to justify an attack from Turkey on Syria.
  • The Turkish military has great concerns going into and fighting Syria.
  • The general atmosphere between these deciders is one of indecisiveness. Everyone seems to be unclear what Erdogan wants and is waiting for clear orders from above.
  • Shortly before the meeting the U.S. military presented fresh plans for a no-fly zone over Syria.

Consider those 2014 plans for a false flag when reading this just-in news:

At least five killed in huge explosion in car bomb attack in Ankara"

A big explosion that officials said was an "act of terrorism" took place in the Turkish capital of Ankara, killing at least five people and injuring another 10.

Ankara Governor Mehmet Kılıçlar said the officials believe the explosion was caused by a car bomb.

News reports say buses carrying military personnel have been targeted. The explosion took place as the buses were arriving at a military lodging facility in downtown Ankara, according to reports.

Ömer Çelik, a spokesman for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), wrote in Twitter that the explosion was an "act of terrorism."
...
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the authorities have received information about the blast and were looking into it. Davutoğlu was scheduled to depart for Brussels for a visit later this evening but he canceled the trip and headed to the presidential palace to attend a last-minute security summit.

The attack was near a Turkish military headquarter in Ankara. The announced numbers of wounded and killed are still increasing by the minute.

Turkey will likely blame the Turkish Kurdish PKK for this incident and will extend the blame to the Syrian Kurdish version of the PKK, the YPG. But if this is not a Turkish stage-managed false flag attack it is more likely an Islamic State terror attack than one by the PKK.

Michael Horowitz @michaelh992
#ISIS released the latest edition of its magazine in Turkish, specifically targeting the Turkish military #Turkey
6:58 AM - 26 Jan 2016

As to what follows from this incident consider also this:

Saud Al Tamamy @Saud_AlTamamy

Saud Al Tamamy Retweeted قناة الإخبارية

For the second time in less than 24 hours: a phone call between King Salman and President Erdogan.

MK Bhadrakumar, who was India's ambassador in Turkey in 1998-2001, reminds us that disagreements between Turkey and the U.S., like the ones we have seen during the last weeks, are not necessarily what they seem:

Although Washington and Ankara appear to be preoccupied with a verbal brawl over christening Syrian Kurds as “terrorists” or not, there is a long history of the two NATO allies working in tandem while dissimulating difference of opinion to mislead outsiders.

Turkey has a consistent record of making defiant noises but ultimately falling in line with Washington’s guidelines. Such situations can be multiplied. Thus, it is entirely conceivable that the open support voiced by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday for Turkey’s proposal to create a ‘no-fly zone’ in Syria would have enjoyed some measure of American approval.

Turkey's Prime Minister yesterday said they would not give up on the Azaz pocket and the city of the same name currently held by CIA/Turkey/Saudi sponsored terrorists against the Russian supported Syrian Kurds.

The hectic communications over the last days, the likely fall of Azaz to Syrian Kurds and this "terror attack" in Ankara lets me assume that we will very soon witness a serious escalation by Turkey and its allies against Syria and its allies.

Posted by b on February 17, 2016 at 01:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (132)

February 16, 2016

Are Green Berets Leading The YPG In Taking The Azaz Pocket?

The Syrian Arab Army and the YPG troops of the Syrian Kurds are making good progress in the Azaz pocket. The pocket formed after the Syrian army cut through the "rebel" corridor between Aleppo city and the Turkish border. The aim now is to push all foreign proxy forces who are still in that pocket (green) back north into Turkey and to get full control of the border.

 


big

The Syrian-Russian command decided to let the YPG (yellow) have the fun of cleaning the pocket only to taunt the Turkish President Erdogan. Erdogan has a serious domestic policy problems when the Kurdish forces gain control in parts of Syria that the wannabe Sultan Erdogan regarded as sacred neo-Ottoman ground. His court jester, the Prime Minister Davutoglu, announced that his country would not allow the town of Azaz to fall to Kurdish fighters. He will have to eat a flock of craws over that.

The Turks are firing artillery from Turkish ground in the north onto Kurdish position in the pocket. Turkish special forces are likely near the front line to control that fire. But artillery alone can not make the difference. The Kurds have air support from the Russian airforce which Turkey no longer dares to attack. The Russians will not attack the Turkish artillery as such an attack could widen the war. The Kurdish troops will have to suffer through that barrage as they push out the Turkish and CIA paid proxies. Some reinforcement for the CIA proxies arrived from Idleb. These passed from Idleb into Turkey and from Turkey into the pocket. The destruction of these forces in the Azaz pocket will make the further fights  of the Syrian army in Idleb and elsewhere a lot easier.

The Turks see the Kurds as terrorists and demand that everyone joins that view. The U.S. declined and several other states have protested against the Turkish use of artillery against the Kurds. The U.S. sees the Syrian Kurds as friendlies. In east Syria it helped the Kurds to kick the Islamic State out of Kobane. There are U.S. special forces on the ground in east Syria to prepare the Kurds for new attacks on the Islamic State. These also act as Forward Air Controller to direct U.S. air strikes.

The Kurds in the Azaz pocket have also some support from a professional military. Their moves are very purposeful and controlled. They are clearly coordinated with the Syrian army. The coordination with the Russian airforce works well and there is ground fire coordination with the SAA. The line of demarcation between them has likely been agreed upon a while ago. This animated GIF shows the development in the pocket over several days. The town Kafr Naya was, for example, first taken by the Syrian army, but then the army pulled back from it and the Kurds immediately took over. Some local forces, former "rebels", in Kafr Naya then joined the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is the U.S. label used for the YPG whenever it has some local Arab forces attached to it.

Who are the professionals that are helping the YPG to take the Azaz pocket?

My first thought was of course Russian Spetsnaz. But I asked around and none of my usual sources would confirm this. The sources acknowledged that the YPG in west Syria has special force support but there was some quite unexpected silence over who these forces were. It is clear to me that these are not Syrian special forces. The YPG does not want to be seen as an adjunct to the Syrian government. No one would confirm to me that these are Russian forces even as that would be of no great surprise to anyone. This leads me to speculate that some U.S. special forces are directing the YPG in the Azaz pocket. This in coordination with the Syrian army and the Russians.

Is that a crazy thought? Consider: The Syrian YPG Kurds are supported by the U.S. military. They received weapons and ammunition from the U.S. military and, at least in the east, have some U.S. military special forces embedded with them. These Pentagon supported YPG troops currently fight foreign proxy forces in the Azaz pocket which are supported, equipped and paid by the CIA, the Saudis, the Turks and other Arab U.S. "allies". The CIA is running the show. The Turkish NATO member is shelling the Pentagon supported YPG to protect the CIA supported "moderate rebels". The current CIA director was once the CIA Chief of Station in Riyadh and has intimate connection to the Saudi rulers (and their pockets?).

It was the military's Defense Intelligence Agency that warned in 2012 of the emergence of a "Salafist Principality" - the Islamic State - in Syria and Iraq. It warned against continuing the CIA support for the "rebels". It was the Pentagon that sabotaged the White House intent to create another "moderate rebel" force to attack the Islamic State:

The military’s resistance dates back to the summer of 2013, when a highly classified assessment, put together by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then led by General Martin Dempsey, forecast that the fall of the Assad regime would lead to chaos and, potentially, to Syria’s takeover by jihadi extremists, much as was then happening in Libya. A former senior adviser to the Joint Chiefs told me that the document was an ‘all-source’ appraisal, drawing on information from signals, satellite and human intelligence, and took a dim view of the Obama administration’s insistence on continuing to finance and arm the so-called moderate rebel groups. By then, the CIA had been conspiring for more than a year with allies in the UK, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to ship guns and goods – to be used for the overthrow of Assad – from Libya, via Turkey, into Syria. The new intelligence estimate singled out Turkey as a major impediment to Obama’s Syria policy. The document showed, the adviser said, ‘that what was started as a covert US programme to arm and support the moderate rebels fighting Assad had been co-opted by Turkey, and had morphed into an across-the-board technical, arms and logistical programme for all of the opposition, including Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State. The so-called moderates had evaporated and the Free Syrian Army was a rump group stationed at an airbase in Turkey.’

Clearly, the Pentagon hates the CIA support for the "moderate rebels". The CIA support has fed not only the "rebels" but also al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Continuing that path would likely result in a radical al-Qaeda controlled Syrian government and another thankless, years long military expedition to oust it.

The U.S. has several kinds of special forces. The famed SEALs as well as the army's Delta Forces are by now mostly door kickers. They do night raids and other SWAT commando like stuff. The Army Rangers have joined them in the bloody business of killing Afghan farmers. The U.S. special forces that are trained and able to direct a local guerrilla are the Green Berets. A very discreet type of people that work in small teams and are trained in local languages and habits.

So who is helping the Kurds. My hunch is that these are not the "polite green men" of the Russian Spetsnaz, who enabled the people of Crimea to rejoin with Russia, who are now helping the YPG. I believe that the Pentagon sent some of its own "green" people to help the YPG to kick the asses of the CIA supported Jihadis out of Syria. This in tight coordination with the Syrian and Russian forces.

The Obama administration for now decided to accept the Russian offer to pull its chestnuts out of the Syrian fire. But it does not want to give the Russian any credit for doing so. And while the Pentagon has firmly joined the Russian camp some years ago, the White House interventionist borg are ready to again change course and to again support the CIA, the Saudis and Turks in their "moderate Jihadis" mischief. The Green Berets, should they indeed be in north-west Syria, better do their job well and defeat the CIA proxies in a decisive manner.

The above is speculative based solely on my personal hunch and it may be completely wrong. It would probably make for a good movie plot. But could it be right? Has the Pentagon send its specialists to help the Syrians, Russians and Kurds to kick out the CIA sponsored Jihadis? Please let me know your take.

Posted by b on February 16, 2016 at 05:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (103)

February 15, 2016

The "Race To Raqqa" - A Syrian Campaign Plan

There is today a lot of indignation in "western" media over the Russian air campaign in Syria. One, two, three, ... hospitals were bombed!. And schools! An the rebels lost more villages! Barrel bombs! Cluster bombs! One must ask how many of these "hospitals" were really hospitals and not just quarters for Jihadi "rebels". From the videos that were published I could identify only one destroyed building that might have been a real hospital. But ever there no medical equipment was visible in the debris. Could this probably arranged media assault be the preparation for some new false flag stunt or some other planned escalation?

Hardly any mentions was made today about continued Turkish shelling of Kurdish towns in Syria. As soon as the Syrian artillery will be near the border, in a week or so, such shelling will be answered and the situation will then escalate very fast.

The Russian promised that the The “Gates of hell” will be open in the coming months in Syria. The current massive Russian bombing is the beginning of that campaign. "Rebels" running away from a town due to bombing are not able to kill the Syrian soldiers that then enter that town. Houses and infrastructure can be rebuild but dead soldiers can not be resurrected. That is the simple rule that now guides the Syrian government campaigns. There are no hints yet of how exactly the liberation of Aleppo province, rebel held parts of Aleppo city and in Idleb will proceed. There is a bigger campaign plan behind it but it is not yet visible.

Visible though is the Syrian plan of the Race to Raqqa against the Islamic State.


map via The 'Nimr' Tiger - bigger

From the south west a brigade sized force of the Syrian army (red), soon to be reinforced by volunteer units, is pushing north-east towards Tabqa airbase which lies south of Route 4 and the city of Al Tawra. Both are held by the Islamic State (grey). The troops are now some 15 kilometers away from the base. Should the Syrian army take the base it would achieve firecontrol over Route 4 from Turkey via Al Bab to Raqqa and could stop most Islamic State traffic on that road. Should the army take Al Taqra city it could also capture the Taqwa dam of the Assad barrier lake. Then all Islamic State forces west of the Euphrates would be completely cut of from Raqqa and Iraq. They could be further split up by Syrian army forces coming from Aleppo going east and in the north by Kurdish forces (yellow) going west . The Islamic State would lose a lot of terrain in that move and, much more important, its sole open access route to Turkey. The difficult attack on Raqqa city itself, some 15 kilometers further east, would only come after the Tabqa base and Al Tawra are taken.

But few military plans survive the contact with the enemy and there are other forces that would like to get their hands on Raqqa before the Syrian army reaches it

Last week the Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim visited the Turkish President Erdogan in Istanbul. Bahrain, Kuwait, UAE and Qatar have declared that they would join the announced Saudi ground campaign against the Islamic State should the U.S. take the command and lead. Saudi fighter jets are said to have landed in Incirlik airbase (not verified). A Kuwaiti air transport plane landed in Hatay today, allegedly filled with weapons. The Turkish Prime Minister Davutoglu is visiting Ukraine with a large delegation. Is there some coordination ongoing? A diversion in Ukraine to keep the Russians busy in Ukraine while an Turkish/Gulf Arab attack is launched on Syria? Or vice versa?

While the situation for the Syrian government and its allies looks much better now than six month ago, the war on Syria is far from over. It may well expand and escalate further before an end is in sight.

Posted by b on February 15, 2016 at 01:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (125)

February 14, 2016

"Race To Raqqa" Discussion Thread

To provide additional comment space for further discussion of the "Race to Raqqa" in Syria.

The earliest mention of this race came from Andrew Korybko in October 2015:

At that time the U.S. formed the Syrian Democratic Forces out of the Syrian-Kurdish YPG in eastern Syria and an assortment of Arab groups. The idea was to send that force against the Islamic State in Raqqa but the Kurds declined. We see a similar  scenario as discussed then but now with Turkish and Saudi troops aiming for Raqqa.

Our pieces on the race:

Today Elijah J Magnier provided additional information about the race from his sources within the Syrian-Russian-Iranian-Hizb command in Damascus:

Please at least skim through the above pieces before jumping into the discussion.

Posted by b on February 14, 2016 at 09:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (110)

Open Thread 2016-08

News & views NOT related to the war on Syria ...

Posted by b on February 14, 2016 at 09:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (82)

February 13, 2016

The "Race To Raqqa" Is Quickly Intensifying

This is a look at the larger picture of forces developing around Syria. Several foreign armies are aggregating at the Syrian borders with the intent to invade Syria and to occupy its eastern part. But before we dive into that, a short look at the curious situation developing in the north-west.

Near Azaz the U.S. ally Turkey is currently shelling (video) the U.S. ally YPG which is fighting the CIA supported FSA.


map by AFP(?) - bigger

The Syrian-Kurdish YPG troops were heavily supported by the U.S. in their fight against the Islamic State in north-eastern Syria. Under U.S. tutelage they united with Arab anti-IS fighters under the label Syrian Democratic Forces.

In north-west Syria the SDF has used the recent success of the Syrian army against Jihadis in the area to take northern parts of the Azaz corridor which once connected Aleppo to Turkey. That corridor is held by a mixture of al-Qaeda Jihadist from Jabhat al-Nusra, "Turkmen" Islamists from various Turk speaking countries and local Islamist gangs supported by the CIA under the label Free Syrian Army. All three get money and weapons from Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

The Syrian army is moving north and south from the red strip in the map. The SDF is moving east from the Kurdish enclave around Afrin. During the last days the SDF, supported by the Russian airforce, captured the Minnagh airbase which was held by al-Qaeda aligned forces. The SDF then proceeded north to take Azaz, the last major town the Turkish supported Islamist are holding in the area.

Turkey today used 155mm artillery to fire from Turkey against SDF positions on Minnagh airbase and around Azaz. There will be Turkish special forces observers in Syria to direct the fire.

The NATO member Turkey is shelling the YPG, which is backed by Russia and the U.S., and the SDF which is backed by the U.S. for attacking the FSA and Islamists who are backed by the U.S., Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

A nice little clusterfuck the smart (not) girls and boys around Obama created.

But as described here two days ago in The Race To Raqqa Is On, a much bigger clusterfuck is currently in the making in and all around Syria.

The Russian and Syrian airforce will likely respond to the Turkish attack with an intensified bombing of positions held by Turkish proxy forces in Syria. Those forces just received new artillery ammunition and new TOW anti-tank missiles.

There is yet unconfirmed news that this situation will escalate very fast:

The Int'l Spectator @intlspectator
BREAKING: Turkish official says there will be a 'massive escalation' in Syria over next 24 hours.

The Turkish Foreign Minister said today that the fight against ISIS must include (Turkish) ground operations.

The Syrian government and its Iranian and Russian allies are determined to liberate the whole country from the foreign supported terrorists and the Islamic State. The want to keep the country united.

The aim of outside forces, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, the UAE, the U.S., Britain, France is to occupy east Syria to gain political concession from the Syrian government and its allies. They will demand the reconfiguration of the independent, secular Syrian state under President Assad into a dependent Sunni Islamist entity. Should that demand not be fulfilled they will form a new "Sunnistan" Islamist protectorate from the currently ISIS held carcasses of east Syria and west-Iraq.

Turkey today threatened further and wider attacks on Kurdish held areas in Syria. The Turkish 2nd Army is positioned to attack Syria from the north. It could come through the ISIS held corridor between Azaz in the west and Jarablus in the east and move south towards the Islamic State held Raqqa while other forces, see below, would reach Raqqa from the south and south east. Syria would be thus split into a government held western half and an ISIS and U.S. allies held eastern half.

Russian advisers have trained one Syrian brigade specifically for the purpose of holding off a Turkish invasion. But that brigade is probably not a big enough deterrence for the large Turkish forces and could soon be overwhelmed.

The Saudis today claimed again that Assad must be overthrown to defeat the Islamic State. That is of course nonsense but the Saudi family dictatorship has a personal grudge against Assad. The Syrian President once called the Saudis "only half men". (IMHO He was too generous.)

Twenty Saudi F-15 jets arrived today in Incirlik airbase in Turkey to, allegedly, join the U.S. coalition force against the Islamic State. The Saudis also promised to send ground forces if those would fight under some allied command "against ISIS". The United Arab Emirates promised to send special forces for the same purpose. Some Saudi ground forces have already been observed making their way through Jordan.

At least 1,600 British troops with heavy weapons and equipment are currently arriving in Jordan. The Brits claim that this is just for some normal training maneuver but we can expect the British government to paid off enough by the Gulf Arabs to take part in the fight. The British units would likely lead a Saudi/UAE/(maybe also Egyptian?) combined force from east Jordan up through the Syrian desert towards Raqqa and Deir Ezzor. These forces are currently explained as "trainers" who will enter Syria to instigate Syrian Arab tribes to fight ISIS. If there were enough forces in such tribes at all, these could be trained in Jordan. There is currently no Syrian or Russian force in the desert that could prevent such a move.

An additional brigade from the U.S. 101st Airborne is deploying to Iraq without much public announcement. Its task is an invasion of Syria from the south-east along the Euphrates to first capture Deir Ezzor and to then move on to Raqqa.

The Syrian army is on its way to ISIS held Raqqa to prevent any foreign force reaching there first. It will have to hurry up. The race to Raqqa is intensifying.

The Russians have alarmed several airborne brigades and air transport units of their Southern command to be ready for a fast intervention should such troops be needed in Syria. The Russians could airdrop an airborne brigade into the government held, ISIS besieged parts of Deir Ezzor (vid) to prevent that city from being attacked or taken over by Saudi and/or U.S. forces. Two additional Russian missile ships are on their way to the Syrian coast. They carry long distance Kalibr cruise missiles which can be used against other ships as well as against land targets.

Iran is ready to send as many men from its Revolutionary Guard and Quds brigades to Syria as are needed to sustain the governments fight. These folks salivate over the prospect of having some regular Saudi forces for breakfast.

There are active attempts to draw all NATO nations into the phony "fight against ISIS". When the war over Syria gets hotter NATO will likely try to create diversions elsewhere to keep Russia distracted from reacting properly in Syria. The U.S. will tell its Ukrainian puppet government to reengage in massive attacks on Russian supported Ukrainian rebels in east Ukraine.

The war against Syria, waged by the U.S., Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, was so far carried out by proxy forces and foreign mercenaries within Syria's borders. When the Syrian government was on the verge of losing the successful Russian intervention turned the war around. German intelligence no asserts (in German) that the Syrian government is winning the war against the foreign supported forces.

As the war by proxy against Syria has now failed, the anti-Syrian powers have decided to join the action on the ground with their own forces. The "fight against ISIS" (which the Syrians and Russian are fighting more than anybody else) is now the pretext to capture eastern Syria, to split the country in half and to destroy the Syrian government and state.

The "civil war" in Syria is now developing into an large international conflagration over the future of Syria and the whole Middle East.

Meanwhile the Islamic State, confused by this U.S. created clusterfuck in Iraq and Syria, decides to relocate its headquarters from Iraq and Syria to Libya, the other failed state and Charly Foxtrot the U.S. (F, UK) recently created. There it will find rich oil fields, lots of new weapons and no capable enemies.

Posted by b on February 13, 2016 at 02:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (125)

Obama Nips ISIS - Putin Pounds It 12 Times Harder

How a U.S. propaganda line dissolves into embarrassment.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said at a briefing on Wednesday that at most, only 10% of Russian strikes are hitting the terrorist group ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, and Daesh) in Syria.

---

In a report posted Thursday on its website, the [Russian Ministry of Defense] noted that its jets flew 510 combat sorties and hit 1,888 “terrorist objects” in Syria. The previous week’s report claimed 464 sorties that hit a total of 1,354 “terrorist objects.”

Daily reports from the U.S. military for the same period indicate a much lower level of activity: 16 targets struck in Syria.

---
x * 16 = 1,888 * 0.1
x ~= 12

 

Posted by b on February 13, 2016 at 04:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (89)

February 11, 2016

The Race To Raqqa Is On - To Keep Its Unity Syria Must Win

The race to Raqqa is on. Syria and its allies are competing with the U.S. and its allies to snatch east Syria from the Islamic State.

Raqqa in eastern Syria is held by the Islamic State as are the other cities along the Euphrates towards Iraq. To defeat the Islamic State in Raqqa, Deir Ezzor and other eastern Syrian towns and to liberate them, is the aim of all purported enemies of the Islamic State. But this question has to be seen in the larger context.

Could the U.S. and its allies capture Raqqa or Deir Ezzor and with it parts of eastern Syria it could use them as a bargaining chip to gain some negotiation power with Syria and its allies over the future of Syria. Alternatively it creates a Sunni state in east-Syria and west-Iraq. Mosul would be part of such a Sunni state and it would be put under the tutelage of a neo-ottoman Turkey. There have been U.S. plans for such a "Sunnistan" and a revision of the Sykes-Picot borders for some time.

For Syria and its allies the upholding of the unity of Syria is a major objective. To leave Raqqa and the eastern oil fields to the U.S. and its allies would be a devastating loss. Syria and its allies must therefore beat the U.S. and its allies in the race to Raqqa and the larger east Syria.

Syria just made the first major move. A brigade of the Syrian Arab Army attacked the positions of the Islamic State along the Ithriyah to Raqqa road. The town Tal Abu Zayhn has been taken on the way to the first objective, the Tabaqah military airport. Additional supporting forces from various allied groups are assembling in Ithriyah to later support the attack.

 


map via Southfront - bigger

The U.S. move towards east-Syria is still in preparation. The first U.S. plan was to use the Syrian-Kurdish YPG forces of north-east Syria. These were labeled Syrian Democratic Forces after attaching a few men from Arab tribes. These forces would have attacked Raqqa from the north. But the Kurds did not want to invade the Arab lands they would not be able to hold. Their aim is to connect to the Kurdish enclave in north-west Syria along the Turkish border.

The U.S. is coming up with a new plan. There are only sketches visible so far and the following is informed speculation.

The U.S. has extended the runway of the agricultural Rumeilan/Abu Hajar airfield (map) in the Kurdish held area in north east Syria to be able to supply larger operations in the wider area:

This location has been chosen because it's just 100 miles (160 kilometers) from ISIS frontline positions and some of its lucrative oil fields, but well within territory held by Kurdish fighters known as the YPG. The runway is being nearly doubled in length from about 2,300 feet to 4,330 feet (700 to 1,320 meters) -- long enough, say, to receive C130 transport planes. A small apron is also being paved.

Some U.S. special operation forces are said to already operate from there. This is the vanguard on a reconnaissance mission.

It was publicly disclosed that one brigade if the U.S. 101st Airborne Division would go to Iraq to train, advise and assist the Iraqi forces for an attack on Mosul.

Some 1,800 soldiers from the 101st’s Headquarters and its 2nd Brigade Combat Team will deploy soon on regular rotations to Baghdad and Irbil to train and advise Iraqi army and Kurdish peshmerga forces who are expected in the coming months to move toward Mosul, the Islamic State group’s de facto headquarters in Iraq.

But Col. Pat Lang was told that two brigades of the 101st would deploy:

I was told today that two brigades of the 101st Airborne Division are going to Iraq, not just one. This probably is related to the Saudi Juggernaut. pl

The Saudi "juggernaut" was the recent announcement that the Saudis would be willing to send troops to Syria. Nobody was, at first, taking that serious but it now starts to make some sense. The Saudis today confirmed their intent:

Saudi’s decision to send troops to Syria in an attempt to bolster and toughen efforts against militants is “final” and “irreversible,” the Saudi military spokesman announced on Thursday.

Brig. Gen. Ahmed Al-Assiri, said that Riyadh is “ready” and will fight with its U.S.-led coalition allies to defeat ISIS militants in Syria, however, he said Washington is more suitable to answer questions on further details about any future ground operations.
...
The statement comes as Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman visited NATO headquarters in Brussels to discuss the Syrian civil war.

The Saudis would fight under the control of the one brigade of the 101st airborne that was not announced to go for Mosul. The Saudis would deploy from Saudi Arabia via a U.S. controlled airstrip in west Iraq or through east Jordan towards Syria while the brigade from the 101st would probably deploy from the Kurdish area in north Iraq through the Kurdish areas in north-east Syria towards Raqqa. Raqqa would thereby be attacked from a north-eastern and a south-eastern. The airport of Rumeilan/Abu Hajar would be one of the major supply bases.

Such a move of forces would be quite large and over relative long distances. But most of the area is desert and modern motorized military equipment could easily cover those distances in a day or two. This would put Saudi troops into Syria. If they would take Raqqa or Deir Ezzor and the eastern Syrian oilfields they would NEVER let go of it unless Syria would bend to the Saudi demand of introducing an Islamist led government.

The plan is workable but it would also instigate a large mobilization of Shia forces and could lead to a bigger conflict. The Russian Prime Minister Medvedev warned today that new Arab forces entering the Syrian war could spark a much wider war.

The Saudi operation was said to start within two month. The Syrian government forces and their allies will now have to rush to the east to protect the unity of the country. The U.S. for its part may want to hinder the Syrian advantage by whatever means it has, including - possibly - some "erroneous" bombing.

The race for Raqqa, and Syria's future, is on.

Posted by b on February 11, 2016 at 02:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (181)

February 10, 2016

People Say No To Clinterminator

Here are some interesting results from exit polls in the New Hampshire primaries:

Among voters who cared most about honesty and trustworthiness, 91 percent chose Mr. Sanders and only 5 percent chose Hillary Clinton, according to exit polls. She also performed poorly among voters who wanted a candidate who seemed to care most about people like themselves. And the younger the voters, the more skeptical they were of Mrs. Clinton: She received just 16 percent of the support from people under 29, and 32 percent from those 30 to 44. The only age group she won: voters over 65.
...
She lost many major demographic groups, performing best among the older and wealthier, and among people who care about experience and electability in November. But these voters were small in number compared with Mr. Sanders’s legions.
...
Something went wrong between Mrs. Clinton and the women of New Hampshire. Mr. Sanders won 55 percent of their votes compared with Mrs. Clinton’s 44 percent, with married women and especially nonmarried women breaking his way, according to exit polls.

Pretty devastating for Clinton. More:

Mrs. Clinton topped Mr. Sanders by a wide margin among voters who said the next president should generally continue President Obama’s policies. But they accounted for only about four in 10 Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire — far fewer than in Iowa. Instead, just as many voters said the next president should change to more liberal policies — and eight in 10 of these voters backed Mr. Sanders. Almost two-thirds of Democratic voters said they support replacing the current health care system with a single taxpayer-funded plan for all Americans.

The voters recognized that Clinton is a corrupt, lying piece of s***. They see that she would be even more to the right than Obama already is. Only the rich and old like her. Everybody else wants less warmongering than she represents and more socialist policies.

I don't understand why Clinton thought the same policy positions that let her lose against Obama eight years ago would let her win in this cycle. She probably is so full of herself that she believes she deserve the nomination no matter what.

But it seems that her wish to finally become the all-ruling Clinterminator ..


image via Billmon - bigger

.. will never be fulfilled.

Posted by b on February 10, 2016 at 12:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (126)

February 09, 2016

The Wannabe Sultan Meets A Russian Airborne Division - What Is He Going To Do?

The Syrian campaign against the foreign supported terrorists continues with the help of Russia, Iran and other associated forces. This campaign is aimed at killing all terrorists and their associated forces as demanded by the United Nations Security Council resolution 2254.

[r]eiterates its call in resolution 2249 (2015) for Member States to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh), Al-Nusra Front (ANF), and all other individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities associated with Al Qaeda or ISIL, and other terrorist groups, [...] and to eradicate the safe haven they have established

The U.S. for now seems to go along with that resolution and lets Syria and Russia do what they must. But there are others who are more invested in Syria than the Obama administration. The immediate aim of the Syrian forces is to close the border with Turkey and to liberate Aleppo city from the Jihadi insurgents. 6,000 additional soldiers from Iran have arrived to support that effort. A major campaign is planned to launch during next months. But the Saudis, Qataris, Turks and Israelis want to fight the Syrian government down to the last Syrian rebel and foreign mercenary. They will not give up the dreams and the very large investments they made to bring Syria down. The Syrian insurgent groups were just summoned to Ankara to receive new orders.

The Saudis made an insincere offer to send its own troops to fight in Syria. This is likely just a cover to incite others to invade the country. Turkey is the most likely candidate. Here a much read Turkish columnist, a feverish follower and mouthpiece of Erdogan, makes the crazy argument that the self defense of Turkey demands to attack Syria and its Russian and Iranian allies:

The war Tehran and Moscow are carrying out in this country is a war against Ankara. These two countries are actually directly fighting Turkey. There is no way to hide this any longer.
...
Turkey must directly intervene in the Syria issue. Military action included. If Iran and Russia are able to enter this country with such flimsy pretexts, if they are able to bomb even the zero point of our border, if they are exiling Syrian civilians to Turkey and attacking Turkey from Syria, then Turkey has far more reason and right than they.

Nobody would want an open war. Nobody would want a war between Russia and Iran and Turkey. They would not even wish this. But this time it is very serious. If a step is not taken today, we are going to have to fight under tougher conditions than today in the future. There is no such thing as the Syrian regime or Damascus administration anymore. The country is being re-designed and this situation is clearly threatening us, the way is directed at Turkey and we are expected to sit in silence and accept this! Which country can surrender to such a thing? There is threat, physical condition and legal reason to intervene.

Similar crazy words are written by Zionist propaganda clowns in major U.S. newspapers. A not yet existing siege of thousands of al-Qaeda/al-Nusra fighters and maybe some 40,000 civilians in insurgent held parts of Aleppo is used to demand a U.S. attack on Syrian and Russian forces. From the Washington Post:

Operating under a NATO umbrella, the United States could use its naval and air assets in the region to establish a no-fly zone from Aleppo to the Turkish border and make clear that it will prevent the continued bombardment of civilians and refugees by any party, including the Russians. It could use the no-fly zone to keep open the corridor with Turkey and use its assets to resupply the city and internally displaced people in the region with humanitarian assistance.

If the Russians and Syrians seek to prevent humanitarian protection and resupply of the city, they would face the military consequences.

A map published last Friday in the Italian 'La Repubblica' without further explanation shows a Turkish invasion of the northern part of Syria which is currently held by the Islamic State. Such an operation would allow the communication line between Turkey and the Islamic State to stay open. That line is endangered by Kurdish and Russian plans to attack the same area and to eliminate the ISIS presence there.

That communication line is important. Last year the U.S. intelligence community stated that there were some 20,000 foreign fighters with ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorists groups in Syria and Iraq. In a congressional testimony today (pdf) the director of national intelligence James Clapper put the current number at 38,000. Turkey claims it closed its border for foreign fighters going to Syria and Iraq. If so how did those additional 18,000 foreign Jihadis enter Syria and Iraq? Did they just drop from the sky?

Those ISIS fighters are unlikely to have come as airborne troops. Russian troops though would indeed fall from the sky should Turkey do something stupid.

Russia has already warned that it was observing Turkish preparation for an invasion. Yesterday it launched an alarm drill for the airborne troops and and military transport aviation of its southern command. The 56th Guards Air Assault Brigade in Kamyshin and the 7th Guards Airborne Division at Novorossiysk were put on alarm. Both units are elite and took part in the Chechen wars. Last year a Russian airborne air defense brigade also underwent alarm training. These force, plus additional air force assets, would likely be the Russian response to a Turkish invasion of Syria. They would fight on Syrian, not Turkish ground, and would beat any medium-size Turkish invasion force to pulp.

Erdogan is blackmailing the EU with the threat to send hundreds of thousands of refugees. I do not understand why the EU, and especially the German chancellor Merkel, allow such behavior. If the EU, or even Germany alone, would use the available economic thumbscrews on Turkey its economy would scream. A warning to German tourist to not go to Turkey because of the danger of terror attacks would cost Turkey billions per year in income. Credit warnings about over-leveraged Turkish banks could be made. Export credit lines could be shortened. Agricultural imports from Turkey could come under greater scrutiny. Within a year Turkey would lose at least 10% of its GDP. But EU and Merkel seem not to mind to be laughed at by the wannabe Ottoman sultan.

The U.S. just snubbed Turkey by declaring that it does not see the Syrian Kurdish YPG as a terrorist organization. Turkey summoned the U.S. ambassador over the issue.

Erdogan seems to be losing it. He is now the most incalculable factor in the further developments in Syria. But should he invade Syria he can not count on U.S. or NATO support. What is he going to do?

Posted by b on February 9, 2016 at 02:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (155)

February 07, 2016

Why Kerry Blames The Opposition For The Continuing Bombing In Syria

According to this report from Middle East Eye U.S. Secretary of State blamed the opposition for the continuing bombing in Syria:

US Secretary of State John Kerry told Syrian aid workers, hours after the Geneva peace talks fell apart, that the country should expect another three months of bombing that would “decimate” the opposition.

During a conversation on the sidelines of this week’s Syria donor conference in London, sources say, Kerry blamed the Syrian opposition for leaving the talks and paving the way for a joint offensive by the Syrian government and Russia on Aleppo.

“‘He said, ‘Don’t blame me – go and blame your opposition,’” one of the aid workers, who asked to remain anonymous to protect her organisation, told Middle East Eye.
...
"He said that basically, it was the opposition that didn’t want to negotiate and didn’t want a ceasefire, and they walked away,” the second of the aid workers told MEE in a separate conversation and also on the basis of anonymity.

“‘What do you want me to do? Go to war with Russia? Is that what you want?’” the aid worker said Kerry told her.

The hapless State Department spokesperson claimed that the story was wrong:

John Kirby Verified account @statedeptspox
@Charles_Lister Story wrong. @JohnKerry didn't blame oppo for collapse of talks, doesn't have comms w/regime & hasn't wavered on Asad.

But this lets me believe that the report of Kerry chastising the opposition is right on point:

U.S. Embassy Syria @USEmbassySyria
#SecKerry on bombardment of civilians in #Syria: This has to stop. But it’s not going to stop by walking away from the table or not engaging

So while the State Department spokesperson denies that the U.S. blames the opposition, another part of the State Department does exactly that: "it’s not going to stop by walking away from the table or not engaging". Kerry is clearly embarrassed that the Saudi opposition group ran away from the UN talks in Vienna. He should blame his "allies".

The Wall Street Journal says the opposition group ended the talks before they began on Turkish and Saudi orders:

The Syrian opposition abruptly withdrew from peace talks in Geneva this week under pressure from Saudi Arabia and Turkey, two of the main backers of the rebels, according to diplomats and at least a half-dozen opposition figures.

After sabotaging the talks the Saudis came out with an offer to send ground troops to invade Syria if the U.S. would take the command of such an operation. No one is taking that offer seriously. The Saudi troops who try to invade Yemen get beaten to pulp. The Saudis themselves say they had to closed 500 school and evacuate 12 villages with 7,000 people in Saudi Arabia because the Yemenis are now invading them. Their army has lots of expensive toys but is clearly not able to put them to use. The offer to send troops is simply to goad the U.S. into starting a war with Russia.

That is not going to work. The U.S. is now trying to find some end to the conflict in Syria. Someone finally told Kerry that Russia is not in a "quagmire" in Syria but is winning.  The U.S. is in a hurry now as it knows that it will have zero influence left on the issue should the Syrian government and Russia have the time to kill off the opposition. It needs a ceasefire to stay relevant. As Kerry says himself that "whining" about the situation and skipping negotiations will not help the opposition. It will kill it.

Secretary Kerry also called on the Russians to stop their bombing campaign in Aleppo province. But that contradicts the UN resolution 2254 under which the talks in Geneva are held. That resolution clearly calls for a continuation of the Russian and Syrian campaign: THE UNSC

[r]eiterates its call in resolution 2249 (2015) for Member States to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh), Al-Nusra Front (ANF), and all other individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities associated with Al Qaeda or ISIL, and other terrorist groups, [...] and to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Syria, and notes that the aforementioned ceasefire will not apply to offensive or defensive actions against these individuals, groups, undertakings and entities, as set forth in the 14 November 2015 ISSG Statement;

The insurgents in Aleppo province as well as in Idleb province are officially allied with the Nusra Front which is Al-Qaeda in Syria. They are clearly a target of the above resolution and thereby a legitimate target of Russian bombs.

Indeed those who criticize Kerry for blaming the opposition because it ran away from Geneva ignore the resolution. It is the plan the U.S. and Russia have agreed to follow. That plan ends the war in Syria in a ceasefire but only when the opposition agrees to one AND cuts all ties with al-Qaeda and ISIS. As the opposition, and its sponsors, are unwilling to do so the Syrian-Russian campaign against them will continue, as agreed upon by the UNSC, until their end.

Posted by b on February 7, 2016 at 10:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (126)

February 06, 2016

Open Thread 2016-07

News & views ...

Posted by b on February 6, 2016 at 01:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (132)

February 05, 2016

The Zika Virus Is Harmless - Who Then Benefits From This Media Panic?

The media are currently creating a panic about the allegedly dangerous Zika virus:

There is absolutely no sane reason for this panic campaign.

The virus is long known, harmless and the main current scare, that the virus damages unborn children, is based on uncorroborated and likely false information.

A recent Congressional Research Service report (pdf) about Zika notes:

Zika is a virus that is primarily spread by Aedes mosquitoes [..]. Zika transmission has also been documented from mother to child during pregnancy, as well as through sexual intercourse, blood transfusions, and laboratory exposure. Scientists first identified the virus in 1947 among monkeys living in the Ugandan Zika forest. Five years later, human cases were detected in Uganda and Tanzania. The first human cases outside of Africa were diagnosed in the Pacific in 2007 and in Latin America in 2015.

The thing is just one of many thousand viruses that can effect humans. It is known. It is rather harmless. It effects, if there are any at all, are very mild:

A relatively small proportion (about 1 in 4) of infected people develop symptoms. The virus is only detectable for a few days in infected people's blood. [..]

Zika typically causes mild symptoms, including fever, rash, and conjunctivitis, which usually last up to one week. Hospitalization and death following infection are rare.

Only 1 in 4 infected people are affected and any typical flue would be more aggravating to them than this little bugger.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN????!!!!

The CRS report says:

Health experts are uncertain whether Zika causes microcephaly, a potentially severe birth defect involving brain damage. Since October 2015, Brazilian officials have reported more than 4,000 cases of microcephaly in areas with ongoing Zika transmission, up from roughly 150 cases in previous years. Health officials are concerned that this may be a result of infection in the fetus when a pregnant woman is infected.

Synopsis: We do not know if the virus harms unborn children children at all. But that number of 4,000 cases looks suspiciously high.

That is because it is false.

Microcephaly, the so called "pinhead", is not easy to diagnose. There is no standard or certain border value for the size of a newborn baby that doctors can agree on. A baby head may look too small and develop perfectly well or it may look too small and not develop perfectly. Not every case gets regularly reported. There are possible structural reason why this years number differ a lot from last years numbers. A new doctor? A new reporting system? Changed diagnosis guidelines? We do not know.

What we know is that the 4,000 cases number from Brazil that is circulating is a. misleading, b. wrong and c. unrelated to the virus.

The number is misleading because it does not give any real base like the total number of birth to which those 4,000 cases relate. According to a 2009 paper published in Neurology and quoted here:

“Microcephaly may result from any insult that disturbs early brain growth [...] annually, approximately 25,000 infants in the United States will be diagnosed with microcephaly .."

Hundreds of children are born with microcephaly every day. That is sad. But it also tells us that the "big number" of 4,000 is not really that high.

It is also false.

As was reported already a week ago:

New figures released Wednesday by Brazil's Health Ministry as part of a probe into the Zika virus have found fewer cases of a rare birth defect than first feared.

Researchers have been looking at 4,180 suspected cases of microcephaly reported since October. On Wednesday, officials said they had done a more intense analysis of more than 700 of those cases, confirming 270 cases and ruling out 462 others.

So more than half of those 4,000 children reported with microcephaly do not have microcephaly. That the numbers now see such a sharp correction points to problems in the standard of diagnosis in Brazil and elsewhere. Are we sure that we have really correct numbers for earlier years to compare with the current numbers?

But what about that dangerous virus?

Six of the 270 confirmed microcephaly cases were found to have the virus. Two were stillborn and four were live births, three of whom later died, the ministry said.

Only 6 out of 270 were confirmed to have had the virus. Is that a reason to be scared? Or not? That number only tells us that the detection of this virus is rare. It does not tell us how many of the 270 have at a time been infected. It also does not tell us if such an infection has caused microcephaly or not.

But you want another scary headline? "Five out of six kids diagnosed with Zika virus died!!!"

That headline is of course also wrong. We do not know how many, if any, of the surviving kids once had the virus and got rid of it. When were those tests done? Remember that the CRS report noted:

The virus is only detectable for a few days in infected people's blood.

It is likely that the virus can be detected in a dead human body if that body was infected at the time of the death. But in a living body with a working immune system the virus will have vanished after just a few days. It is quite possible that a whole bunch of the surviving children once had the virus, that it caused no harm, and that it vanished.

There is absolutely no sane reason for the scary headlines and the panic they cause.

The virus is harmless. It is possible, but seems for now very unlikely, that it affects some unborn children. There is absolutely no reason to be concerned about it.

As this is all well known or easy to find out why do the media create this sensation?

Cui bono? Has someone a vaccine they want to sell? Is this to damage Brazil's Olympics?

Feel free to speculate.

Posted by b on February 5, 2016 at 03:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (183)

February 04, 2016

Syria's Enemies Seek Face Saving Escalation Measures

Russia Accuses Turkey of Preparing to Invade Syria

The Russian military said Thursday that it has "reasonable grounds" to suspect that Turkey is making intensive preparations for a military invasion of neighboring Syria.

Images of a checkpoint on the border between the Turkish town of Reyhanli and the town of Sarmada in Syrian taken in late October and late January show a buildup of transportation infrastructure that could be used for moving in troops, ammunition and weapons, spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in an English-language written statement.

He said these were among growing signs of "hidden preparation of the Turkish armed forces for active actions on the territory of Syria.
...
A Turkish Foreign Ministry official said the ministry would have no immediate comment.

The Russian high command press briefing (vid with English subtitles) includes the pictures of the border post.

Turkey yesterday prohibited a Russian reconnaissance "Open Skies Treaty" flight over the Turkish-Syrian border zone. There are dozens such flights per year over Russia by NATO and over NATO countries by Russia. This is to my knowledge the first time such a flight, which had earlier been requested and accepted, is blocked by the guest country.

The Russian military spokesperson snarked:

It is to be reminded that the Russian Defence Ministry has intensified all kinds of intelligence in the Middle East region.

That’s why, if someone in Ankara thinks that the prohibition of Russian observer flight allows to hide something, it is unprofessional.

The decisive Syrian government victory yesterday cuts off the foreign supported insurgents in Aleppo and Idleb from they supply sources in Turkey and deprives them of their fuel supplies.

In reaction to that victory the supporters of the insurgents and terrorist in Syria are likely to increase their efforts. The negotiations in Geneva failed over the Syrian victory and the Saudis had already promised that such a failure would lead to an increased support. The Saudi Defense Ministry declared today that Saudi ground forces could take part in action in Syria. It is doubtful that the Saudis have a real capability to do so. But the Saudis and others will now again shower the insurgents and Jihadis in Syria with money and new weapons. A Turkish invasion could add momentum to such a move.

Such an invasion would come at the Syrian-Turkish border between Azaz and Jarabulus that is currently under Islamic State control. The Syrian YPG Kurds plan to take that area with Russian help and to seal the border. Turkey does not want that to happen. Its well working lines of communication with the Islamic State must be kept open.

So is a Turkish invasion of Syria in preparation? My guess is yes.

But will it really happen? My guess is no.

NATO will restrain Turkey from such a misguided adventure. It could mean war with Russia and no European NATO country would like that to happen. Without NATO backing the Turkish military is unlikely to follow the order for such a move.

The Russia revelation of the Turkish preparations is increasing the deterrence against such a move. It also means that Russia would react harshly against a Turkish invasion and surely Russia has demonstrated by now that it has the means to do so in decisive ways.

But even while Turkey is unlikely to send its army it may use a proxy force to capture more Syrian territory.

The Zionist lobby in Washington DC in form of the Washington Institute is advising Turkey to invade Syria by proxy to keep the Kurds away from the border zone:

The most effective way to monitor the Azaz-Jarabulus border area would be to ensure that the Syrian side is filled by forces friendly to Turkey, or at least opposed to IS. One possible such group would be the Syrian Turkmens, who are ethnically related to Turks and are being trained by Turkey as a fighting force in northwestern Syria.
...
[T]he Turkish armed forces has modern artillery with an effective range of twenty to twenty-five miles, UAVs, and other means to protect its clients administering a prospective safe zone.

These "Turkmen" had occupied northern Latakia where they are just being kicked out by the Syrian army and its supporters. They consist of Turkish "Grey Wolf" fascists, Turkish Islamists and Chechen and Uhigur Islamist mercenaries. They are controlled by the Turkish secret service MIT.

The whole plan has a logical flaw. If, as the Washington Institute lobbyists claim, it is desirable for Turkey to monitor or seal the border from Islamic State infiltration why can't this be done on the Turkish side of the border? Why does this necessitate an illegal invasion by proxy of Syria? I find no plausible answer to that last question.

The lobbyists also skip over the question of potential retaliation. If Turkish artillery fires into Syria then Syria and its supporters are legally justified to fire back by whatever means are needed. A few Russian cruise missiles could easily take care of those Turkish artillery battalions. What would then follow?

Neither the Turks nor the Saudis nor the U.S. nor Israel have given up on their "regime change" war on Syria. But their proxies have taken serious losses and are likely to lose the fight. While we can expect some new attempts of escalation I expect  that these will be mere face saving moves. It just takes some additional time until the reality will sink in and until some other issue can be found to distract from their inevitable retreat.

Posted by b on February 4, 2016 at 02:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (88)

February 03, 2016

Syria: 'Negotiations' Over Insurgency's Northern Supply Route Concluded

Good news from Syria. The battlefield 'negotiations' over the insurgency's supply route to the north were successfully concluded.

After nearly four years the siege on Nubl and Zahraa has been lifted. The northern supply route from insurgency held areas in Aleppo province and Aleppo city to Turkey has been severed.

Update (12:45 am): A Syrian author in Aleppo just tweeted:

Edward Dark @edwardedark
This is the beginning of the end of jihadi presence in Aleppo. After 4 years of war & terror, people can finally see the end in sight #Syria

End-update


Map by SAA Reporter - bigger, HD version - different map showing a larger area

While fire control over the supply route was achieved yesterday there were still Jabhat al-Nusra forces holding the village Muarrasat al Khan. Those forces were destroyed today with a two pronged attack by the Syrian army coming from east and Hizbullah fighters coming from the besieged Nubl and Zahraa area in the west. Those fighters had earlier arrived by helicopter. At least four higher commander of Nusra and other groups where killed during the fighting. They Syrian army will now continue the offensive to widen and secure the new corridor.

There is now only one supply line left between the insurgents in Idleb and Aleppo province and Turkey. It leads north-west from Idleb city along the M45 motorway and crosses at Bab al Hawa to the Turkish city of Reyhanli (map.) It is some 40 kilometers west of Aleppo city and Russian air superiority make the road dangerous to use. The Russian air force will take care that no major traffic is able to use the crossing. Over the next months the current offensive should also have reached that border zone and seal all other potential crossing venues.

Russia made clear that there will be no end to the war until the border is under full Syrian government control:

"The key point for the ceasefire to work is a task of blocking illegal trafficking across the Turkish-Syrian border, which supports the militants," [Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov] said. "Without closing the border it is difficult to expect the ceasefire to take place."

The Russian air strikes will continue until the terrorist organizations are defeated.

Additional progress was made by the Syrian army today in Latakia. East of Aleppo the army took the village  As Sin and has nearly surrounded a contingent of Islamic State fighters at the Aleppo power plant. In Homs province the already surrounded large insurgency held area of Rastan will soon be split in two. In the south new attacks were launched to widen the supply corridor to Daraa.

Morale of the Syrian army has remarkably increased and victory begets victory. I expect the campaign to continue at the current pace. The insurgency in north, south and west Syria is faltering on all fronts and their lack of new supplies will soon lead to more decisive defeats. After the insurgency is mostly destroyed it will be time to take serious care of the Islamic State in Deir Ezzor and Raqqa in east Syria. In preparation of that move the Syrian YPG Kurds, with Russian support, are planning to take the rest of the northern border with Turkey from the Islamic State.

Posted by b on February 3, 2016 at 10:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (90)

February 02, 2016

U.S. Does Not Know How Much Territory ISIS Lost In Syria

January 29, 2016

Department of Defense Press Briefing by Col. Warren via Teleconference from Baghdad, Iraq

this reflects our estimate that ISIL has lost approximately 40 percent of the territory it once held in Iraq. Approximately 5 percent of the territory it once held in Syria.

February 2, 2016

John Kerry, Secretary of State, Remarks at the Ministerial Meeting of the Small Group of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL

We have had up and downs, but more recently, more ups than downs, and Daesh lost 40 percent of its territory in Iraq and 20 percent of its territory in Syria.

Somehow I can not find the news that would explain this big change within just three days. I conclude that whatever U.S. officials say about ISIS held territory are just wildarse guesses.

Posted by b on February 2, 2016 at 10:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (54)

February 01, 2016

Syria 'Negotiates' With New Attacks On Insurgency Supply Routes

The Syrian Arab Army launched a significant new offensive in north Aleppo today. It is another move in the battlefield negotiations that will decide this war.


Map by @PetoLucem - bigger - full HD

The likely objective of the offensive is the creation of a corridor from north-west Aleppo to the besieged towns of Nubol and AlZaraa. The towns are under siege from Jahat al Nusra (al-Qaeda in Syria) and Ahrar al-Sham and are regularly shelled. Such a corridor would also cut through the insurgents main supply route from south-west of Aleppo to Turkey.

The offense has been in preparation for some time and runs in parallel (vid) with other operations in Latakia near the Turkish border, east of Aleppo and in the south. To protect against any Turkish adventure Russia beefed up the available air power. Four brand new Russian Su-35S multi-role fighters arrived in Syria. Russia would like to demonstrate their capabilities. Nine Syrian Mig-29 fighters have been upgraded (recom. reading) with new active electronically scanned (AESA) radars and new missiles. They now fly protective cover for Russian and Syrian ground attack fighters and helicopters against Turkish air interdiction. Syrian T-72 tanks have been upgraded with new defense measures against U.S. anti-tank weapons.

Throughout the last weeks several thousand newly trained troops arrived in the government held north Aleppo industrial zone. These have now launched the fresh attack in the north western direction (red arrows on the map) and already captured several villages. The attack was prepared by massive ground attack airstrikes which hit the frontline positions of the foreign supported insurgents'  as well as their ammunition transports (vid). (Interestingly the destroyed convoy was on a narrow, small road. That proves that major supply roads are no longer available or safe for the insurgents.)

The attack today forestalled planned counterattacks by various insurgent groups and Jabhat al-Nusra. The attacked insurgent units issued urgent requests for reinforcements.

There have been significant skirmishes between Turkey and Syria/Russia in the last days. Turkey claimed that Russian jets intruded its airspace which the Russians denied. It is quite possible that small intrusion happen as the Russian and Syrian ground attack jets bombard insurgents near the Turkish border in Latakia. But the Turks now have to watch out for ready-to-shoot Russian and Syrian air superiority fighters who only wait for a chance to avenge the earlier Turkish ambush of a Russian plane.

Today Turkish artillery fired (vid) against Syrian army positions in Latakia. The 1998 Turkish-Syrian Adana agreement which provided for largely demilitarized Syrian side of the border up to a depth of fifteen kilometer is clearly no longer in effect. Syrian artillery is active against insurgent groups which hide in "refugee camps" near the border. The Turks claim that these are ethnic Turkmen civilians but the video showing the damage in such a camp was released (vid) with the insignia of Jabhat al-Nusra. Some other fighters in the area are Turks from the fascist MHP party.

When the Syrian army and its supporters have cleared the Latakia area near Turkey Russia will install a new far reaching radar and a listening post on one of its hilltops. Such a station will allow the observance of all air and sea movements for hundreds of kilometers into Turkey. It will be part of the price Turkey and NATO have to pay for the ambush of the Russian plane.

Some people think that Turkey would invade Syria if the Kurds move further into the supply corridor north east of Aleppo the Islamic State uses for its dealing with Turkey. I very much doubt such a move as any intrusion into Syria would risk open war with Russia. The Turkish army would only launch that war under a explicit, written order. NATO would not support such a move and Erdogan alone would carry the full responsibility. Most Turkish people are well aware of the economic losses that follow Erdogan's aggressive policies and would likely not support such a hopeless adventure.

Erdogan's grandstanding and interference is no longer effective. The current UN talks in Geneva between the Syrian government and a Saudi supported group of the radical insurgents are a side show. The real  negotiations are on the battlefield and there the Syrian government and its supporters continue to improve their already superior position.

Posted by b on February 1, 2016 at 10:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (56)

 
Site Meter